Saturday, September 21, 2019

You Want Impeachment?

Obviously, if you're looking for someone who wants to dive headfirst into an impeachment vote, you're on the wrong blog.

But if you do, stop screaming at Pelosi. Per my epic post from last weekend, if you want an impeachment vote to happen, call these eight (links to their contact info):

You get these eight to come out for it publicly, you'll get a vote. Guaranteed.

I don't think you will, because I don't think the case that will get their constituents to support that move has been assembled yet, but if you do get any of them to put it on the record, let me know.

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Ten

Back to Chapter Nine

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Nine

Back to Chapter 8

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Eight

Back to Chapter Seven

Monday, September 16, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Seven

Back to Chapter Six

Sunday, September 15, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Six

Back to Chapter 5

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Laying My Impeachment Bets

As hopefully everyone reading this knows by now, the impeachment process is rolling along:

Some people, if not most, continue to seem to think Pelosi is not on board and that she'd like to see the whole thing go away.

As I said last week (and many other times), this simply is not true:

She indicated as much this week:

Pelosi was dogged by questions about the issue in her weekly press conference Thursday and grew frustrated when asked if she would concede that the House is conducting an impeachment investigation. 
“Do I concede? Have you not been paying attention to what we’ve been doing for the last three months? We are legislating ... we’re investigating, as six committees have been doing for months ... and we are litigating. … I stand by what we have been doing all along,” Pelosi responded. “I support what is happening in the Judiciary Committee, because that enables them to do their process of interrogation and investigation.
Pelosi tried to shut down further questions about impeachment, saying she wouldn’t comment further, but was later asked if she’s uncomfortable referring to the Judiciary Committee’s work as an “impeachment” investigation. “Why is it that you’re hung up on a word over here when lives are at stake over there?” Pelosi asked, arguing that reporters are the only ones focused on the issue. 
As reporters pushed back, Pelosi added, “I travel the entire country. Come with me sometime. And you’ll hear what the American people are saying. They understand that impeachment is a very divisive measure, but if we have to go there, we’ll have to go there. But we can’t go there unless we have the facts.”

Same as it's been for months. In the meantime, the number of Democrats (plus Justin Amash) that supports impeachment has grown. Six months ago, it was a handful. A month ago, it was at 118. I predicted several times this summer that it'd be 140 when the Dems returned from recess. As of yesterday, it's 147.

And, as I also predicted repeatedly, things would really start to heat up when Adam Schiff got into the investigative mix. Well, hello!

So where do things go from here?

Politico has a nifty tool which keeps count of Congresscritters who have said they'd vote for impeachment.

I've said often that while many have screamed at Pelosi since the beginning of the year that she has to start whipping votes for impeachment, that's just not how whipping works. Whipping is not about getting the first votes; it's about getting over the finish line, and that I thought she and Hoyer would begin that when they had 30-50 votes left to get. Being that they need 218 and they have 147, including Amash, that's a minimum of 21 votes. That's not a lot. Corey Lewandowski's testimony will probably draw over at least one or two, and if Schiff's new findings come out, they could do another 10. If Lawrence O'Donnell can ever get a source for his Deutsche Bank assertion, that'd be huge, and there's a lot more in the works. But who will those votes be?

Politico's tool does more than just count. It also shows who is and who is not publicly on board, and where their districts fall on the partisan scale.

The further left you go on the chart, the less it went for Clinton in 2016 and more for Trump, and the red dots are representatives from districts Trump "won." (though if you believe the polling that shows that the Comey letter alone probably moved the polls 3-4 points in the last ten days of the cycle and generalized it, almost 20 more of those districts would've gone blue then).

I'll start from the right side and move left myself shortly in looking at the individual dots, but this week, an obvious starting point emerged, as the legendary Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) gave us a preview:

Despite his silence, advocates for Trump's removal see the civil rights icon — a man Democrats describe as the conscience of their caucus — as a singularly powerful potential ally, one of the last publicly undecided lawmakers who could change the calculus inside the Democratic caucus. And Lewis himself says an announcement on impeachment is almost at hand.

 "My time is growing near," the Georgia lawmaker told reporters this week. He added, "I’ve never been supportive of this so-called president. Before he was inaugurated I said he was not legitimate. So I have some very strong feelings."

Uh, "not legitimate?" "so-called president?" Aside from the fact that I have said for months that any impeachment should have Trump's illegitimacy and election theft as its starting point, and thus my heart fluttered when I read that, it's pretty clear which way he's leaning. And with him, likely comes most, if not all, of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Lewis, who is in a D+73 district, tied for the second highest under the holdouts, makes 148. Which other CBC members have not come out yet? From right to left:

  • Rep. Gregory Meeks, D+73 (NY)
  • Rep. Frederica Wilson, D+68 (FL) -- Uh, I'd say she's a safe bet.
  • Rep. Alcee Hastings, D+62 (FL)
  • Rep. Eddie Johnson, D+61 (TX)
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings, D+56 (MD)
  • Rep. Marc Veasey, D+49 (TX)
  • Rep. David Scott, D+44 (GA)
  • Rep. Terry Sewell, D+41 (AL)
  • Rep. James Clyburn, D+37 (SC)
  • Rep. Al Lawson, D+25 (FL)
  • Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D+22 (VA)
  • Rep. Sanford Bishop, D+12 (GA)
  • Rep. Steven Horsford, D+5 (NV)
  • Rep. Jahana Hayes, D+4 (CT)
  • Rep. Colin Allred, D+2 (TX)
  • Rep. Antonio Delgado, R+7 (NY)
That's 16 more. Which would be 164, only six short of my minimum. Does the fact that 17 members, most of whom are in very safe districts, of a caucus that wrote this regarding the fight under Trump:

We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, people who built this country and its wealth while toiling, fighting, and dying for our collective freedom. To deny our history or surrender in the struggle for a more perfect union would dishonor their sacrifice. That is something we simply will not do.

... are holding back impeachment votes regarding Trump tell you anything? As Elizabeth Warren, herself an avid supporter of impeachment might say, they've "got a plan for that."
This is what the bottom of the chart looks like if the CBC comes out in lockstep for impeachment (not a given, but play along).

Not nearly as many blue dots... but who's the next group?

We can quibble about whether we think the leaders are going to come out for impeachment, but as I think they are and by 164 they're getting really close. So the next group I think are givens are Pelosi and the committee chairs, mostly to just get them off the list:

  • #1, in the safest Democratic district of this whole group -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D+78 (CA)
  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D+50 (CA)
  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D+32 (MD)
  • Rep. Richard Neal, D+21 (MA) -- He can't come out until the courts give him Trump's taxes so the Republicans can't go to the courts and say he's on a partisan hunt. I think that's soon.
  • Rep. Collin Peterson, R+31 (MN) -- Yes, I know he's conservative and from the most conservative district among them, but at some point his chair's at risk if he doesn't fall in line
Now we're at 169, and the chart looks like this:

From there, I'd like to go in the other direction for a bit. These are the ones that perennially deserve to be primaried, because they're either so stubbornly conservative compared to their district, or in one case, compromised:
  • Ed Case, D+33 (HI)
  • Tulsi Gabbard, D+32 (HI)
  • Henry Cuellar, D+20 (TX)
  • Jim Cooper,  D+18 (TN)
  • Daniel Lipinski, D+15 (IL)
I've filled those in in black.

Let's put some points back on the board. On Thursday alone, three members from California's delegation joined the calls for impeachment (Zoe Lofgren, Katie Hill, and Lou Correa). I think that Pelosi can strategically deploy pretty much all of the other California members as things progress:

  • Anna Eshoo, D+53 (CA)
  • Jimmy Panetta, D+47 (CA)
  • Mike Thompson, D+45 (CA)
  • Linda Sanchez,  D+40 (CA)
  • Susan Davis, D+35 (CA)
  • Jim Costa, D+22 (CA)
  • Jerry McNerney, D+19 (CA)
  • TJ Cox, D+16 (CA)
  • Ami Bera, D+11 (CA)
  • Raul Ruiz, D+9 (CA)
  • Gil Cisneros, D+9 (CA)
  • Josh Harder, D+3 (CA)
Cox won by a nose in 2018 and the incumbent he defeated, David Valadao, is challenging him again. So he'd probably be the last one in. But it is a D+16 district.

After California, the chart looks like this:

That's 181 up, five down. 

Here's another group I'm going to put on the "In" board -- members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus:

  • Debbie Dingell, D+26 (MI)
  • Lois Frankel, D+20 (FL)
  • Rosa DeLauro, D+16 (CT)
  • Angie Craig, R+1 (MN)
  • David Loebsack, R+4 (IA)
  • Andy Kim, R+6 (NJ)
  • Matt Cartwright, R+10 (PA)
I'm comfortable putting everyone on this list in white. The first three are just waiting for someone in leadership to ask -- they're very reliable progressives in reliable districts. Loebsack is retiring, so he doesn't face political consequences. Andy Kim had a very close race in 2018 and Cook currently lists his race as a Tossup, but he doesn't have a serious challenger yet and he's not a hard "no":
I am really not trying to approach any of this from a political standpoint. I am not trying to think through in my mind what is going help win an election or what is going to help. Look, we have to serve the Constitution.
Angie Craig is on the fence, but talk of "wanting to see more information" means I think she can be convinced given the information I expect to come out (see Conspiracy, Proof of). Cartwright's the one who is most iffy, but he said in March he supports it if "we find out he did something treasonous.” Well, we will. Both of their races are also Lean Democratic.

188 up, 5 down, and we're here:

Now some iffy ones... it is leadership's responsibility to not make party members that are legitimately vulnerable take votes that might kill their reelection chances if they don't need them. I'm going to put them in a couple of categories. The first is comprised of members who won their 2018 elections by three points or fewer:
  • Elaine Luria, R+3 (VA)
  • Cynthia Axne, R+4 (IA)
  • Abigail Spanberger, R+7 (VA)
  • Ben McAdams, R+7 (UT)
  • Jared Golden, R+10 (ME)
  • Xochitl Torres Small, R+10 (NM)
  • Joe Cunningham, R+13 (SC)
  • Kendra Horn, R+13 (OK)
  • Anthony Brindisi, R+16 (NY)
All of these are in pretty Republican districts. Everyone is labeled a Tossup. Let's start with ones who are Blue Dogs -- openly conservative Democrats. Other than Luria, Axne, and Golden, every member on this list is one. I'm not going to say Blue Dogs aren't gettable -- Luis Correa joined on with impeachment this week, and Sanford Bishop and David Scott are also members of the CBC in safe seats, but the ones on this list that are Blue Dogs I'm taking off the table because they're both conservatives and fighting for their political lives.

188 in and 12 out.

That leaves Luria, Axne, and Golden.

At last check, Luria was on the fence but was open:
“Going down the path of impeachment would be very divisive for the country,” she said in a statement. “We need to have all of the facts before we consider such an option, and I support the important investigative work being done by the appropriate committees in the House."
Axne was in a similar place as of last week, but it appears off the table for Golden and his district:
Golden, the newest and youngest member of Maine’s congressional delegation who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District, on Wednesday said that he recently held a town hall meeting in Millinocket and that no one there raised the topic about whether Trump should be impeached.
“We didn’t get one question about impeachment, about Mueller, about ‘the squad’ [four minority women members of the House of Representatives], about socialism versus Donald Trump — none of this BS that I think drives the silent majority of Americans absolutely insane,” he said.
I'll put Luria and Axne in gray. 188 up, 12 down, 2 maybe.

Now let's look at the rest of the Blue Dogs; the ones who are conservative but weren't in particularly close races in 2018:
  • Vicente Gonzalez, D+17 (TX)
  • Stephanie Murphy, D+7 (FL)
  • Kurt Schrader, D+4 (OR)
  • Charlie Crist, D+3 (FL)
  • Joe Courtney, D+3 (CT)
  • Mikie Sherrill, R+1 (NJ)
  • Josh Gottheimer, R+1 (NJ)
  • Tom O'Halleran, R+1 (AZ)
  • Jefferson Van Drew, R+5 (NJ)
  • Max Rose, R+10 (NY)
Gonzales hasn't said a whole lot about impeachment, and nothing in two months. From July: “I believe the best way to impeach Trump is to defeat him in 2020.” I'm comfortable with him in the maybe category because he's in a heavily Democratic district. O'Halleran has been a soft oppose so far and I'll put him in the same category.

Murphy's a "not yet," so in for me. Schrader has basically said he won't defy Pelosi and not much else, and his seat is safe, so I'll put him as an "in." Crist is also safe and is open to it after more investigations. Courtney is open to it, as is Sherrill, and both of their seats are likely to be safe.

Gottheimer appears to be a lost cause, and Van Drew wants to shut down investigations. Rose is out, too.

193 up, 15 down, 4 maybe. It's hairier than I expected, because the Dems can't afford more than 18 No votes unless they get Republicans to replace them.

Back to the good side... the next group I'll call "Leadership adjacent." Those who should be gettable because of a historic closeness with progressive House leadership, or the Clintons or Obamas. The first I was looking at was John Sarbanes, son of Paul Sarbanes, of Sarbanes-Oxley fame. He's actually already in, bringing the confirmed count actually to 148. He's from a D+31 district in Maryland.

There's nothing on the record from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but she was into the idea two years ago, so she's on my list, being from a D+26 Florida district. Donna Shalala is from a D+20 in Florida and also is open.

196 up, 15 down, 4 maybe.

I didn't mean to get this far down the rabbit hole, but I guess now that I have, I should finish the job!

Let's start with the remaining Dems from D+20 or higher districts:

  • Albio Sires, D+54 (NJ)
  • Robert Scott, D+32 (VA)
  • Stephen Lynch, D+26 (MA)
  • John Larson, D+23 (CT)
All of them appear to be waiting patiently for the investigations, so I'll put them in.

200 up, 15 down, 4 maybe.

Dems from D+10 to D+19 districts:
  • Kathy Castor, D+18 (FL)
  • Joseph Morelle, D+16 (NY)
  • Peter Visclosky, D+13 (IN)
  • Ed Perlmutter, D+12 (CO)

None of these four appear to have strong opinions on the topic, and all are safe. 

204 up, 15 down, 4 maybe.

Here are the remaining ones from Democratic-leaning districts:

  • Chrissy Houlihan, D+9 (PA)
  • Dean Phillips, D+9 (MN)
  • Thomas Suozzi, D+6 (NY)
  • Sharice Davids, D+1 (KS)
  • Susan Wild, D+1 (PA)
  • Lizzie Fletcher, D+1 (TX)
  • Cheri Bustos, R+1 (IL)

Houlihan's pushing investigations:

Wild also wants more investigations before deciding, as does Fletcher. Bustos seems pretty close and will almost definitely follow Pelosi, given that she chairs the DCCC.

Phillips is practically in

Suozzi seems pretty doubtful but not out.

Davids hasn't said much on the topic, but I generally trust her.

I've got 210 up, 15 down, 5 maybe.

Finally, the remaining ones from districts that went for Trump in 2016:

  • Susie Lee, R+1 (NV)
  • Conor Lamb, R+3 (PA)
  • Haley Stevens, R+4 (MI)
  • Abby Finkenauer, R+4 (IA)
  • Ron Kind, R+5 (WI)
  • Elissa Slotkin, R+7 (MI)

Lee is open to it, as is Stevens. Kind hasn't said much.

Lamb seems unlikely, but hasn't said no. Same with Finkenauer, as well as Slotkin.

My final prediction -- Obviously, I'm being generous because I believe that Democratic leadership is preparing a big impeachment push; others disagree. 213 in, 15 out, 8 too close to call. 

In other words, when the chips are down, there are 15 Democrats that I believe will side with Trump and eight that could go either way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Five

Back to Chapter 4

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Four

Back to Chapter 3

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Three

Back to Chapter 2

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter Two

Spoiler: I did it anyway. I just did it a bit more informally than I did the previous chapters.

Back to Chapter 1

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Chapter One

Back to the Introduction 

Monday, September 2, 2019

My Read of Seth Abramson's Proof of Conspiracy -- Introduction

Friday, July 26, 2019

Goddamn Right, It's a Beautiful Day (Uh-Huh)

Impeachment's beginning, at a cautious pace like I've been advocating for for the last six months, and the Democrats show that the "rift" is largely manufactured by the media.

If anything, I've given Pelosi too little credit. This is not your big brother's Democratic Party. They're strategic and more unified that I could've imagined.

Now can we all be friends again???

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Impeach (Barr) Now!


While I've been clear that I'm comfortable with the pace at which Congress is moving towards impeaching Trump (I think we got to 97 supporters yesterday and I'm guessing we'll hit 120 this month after Mueller testifies), unless the courts are saying not to, it's time to open an impeachment inquiry against Bill Barr. This is getting grotesque:

We've got all we need on him if we can get a few relevant witnesses.

And when I get unsuspended from Twitter in a couple of days, I'll be able to say it!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Nuking Portland

I'm suspended from Twitter for the week (apparently it's worse to say mean things to a Nazi than it is to actually be one), and I'm continuing to try to talk myself into an impeachment inquiry, but I still remain here:

PILOT: OK, taking off! I've got Little Boy!

COMMANDER: Good lu.... oh, shit, the Japanese are winning! Drop the bomb!!!!

PILOT: But... Commander, I just took off!

COMMANDER: But they're so terrible! You have to drop the bomb!

PILOT: Um, I'm not over Hiroshima. I'm over, uh, Portland.


PILOT: Seriously... give me another 12 hours or so and I'll blow the crap out of Japan!


PILOT: If you say so...

Eh, hipsters suck, anyway.

Friday, July 12, 2019

OK, I Lied -- I'm Still Talking Impeachment

I'm such a broken record on this, but I keep listening to podcast episodes and thinking over and over, "What is it I'm missing?" While nearly nobody I know in real life thinks that impeachment NOW (as opposed to what I think -- and yes, Pelosi thinks and has said over the last several weeks -- which is that trying to gather more evidence first) is a good idea, almost all of my online friends, who are generally more informed than my real life ones, think it is.

I'm trying to talk myself into it. Most of my reservation is that I'm afraid the media will BothSides impeachment worse than anything, and I'm sort of ready to say, "Fuck it, fine, just do it" if Mueller's appearance doesn't change the media's coverage significantly. But every indication I'm feeling from all of the mainstream media I consume is that they're going to frame impeachment as a partisan issue, and I haven't found many of the reasons I'm hearing for doing it to be very compelling. I mean, I want ridiculously for David Ferguson of Bob Cesca's Goth Ninjas, as he discussed on Bob's podcast yesterday, to have health insurance -- hell, I support his podcast in a serious way despite the fact that I haven't gotten around to listening to it yet (but you should, he's awesome) -- but I'm scratching my head thinking "Step 1: Impeachment Inquiry. Step 2: ?? Step 3: Insurance." And Pelosi is *trying* to do something about health insurance -- Congress is fighting to save the ACA, and Dems are passing legislation in support of health insurance which, even though it won't pass, will be ready for when they can and shows people where they stand. But when the Democrats do that, people scream, "WHY THE FUCK ARE THEY PASSING USELESS LEGISLATION? IMPEACH! STOP MAKING STATEMENTS SUPPORTING OBAMACARE! IMPEACH!"

Impeachment, unless somehow it can remove both Trump AND Pence (and I still think there's a chance if there's a huge bombshell) will not get insurance for anyone, nor will it free a single kid from a cage, nor will it stop the erratic foreign policy.

I hear that it's about "holding Trump accountable," but although I'm not that worried about impeachment losing us 2020, I don't know how it really holds him accountable. Most people aren't going to be watching impeachment hearings on C-SPAN -- they'll be watching on networks and other outlets with commentary.... we already know that the media doesn't care about the things that the evidence that the public "knows." They don't give much of a shit about:

-Fascistic militarism
-Kids in cages
-Sweet tongue-kisses with Kim Jong Un
-Murder of fellow journalists
-People losing health insurance
-People losing jobs
-More rape
-Climate denial
-Voter suppression
-Again, rape. Like, however many rapes Trump has committed.
-Killing of dozens of children
-Russian influence over our elected officials
-CHILD rape.

And because the media doesn't care about those things, people don't care that much either. But the media does care about the horserace, and they care about Hillary's e-mails and the Clinton Foundation, and that's a huge reason we are where we are. Congress isn't more likely to get much more information from impeachment than from the other investigations -- it's been said that the courts will be more likely to enforce subpoenas if the Dems impeach, but as I think I mentioned in another post, Ted Lieu has told us that the courts are telling them that they will have more success with the judiciary if they exhaust all ways of working with the Republicans before taking more drastic measures... I actually think that the mass subpoenas being issued as of yesterday might be a sign that a court has indicated it will now enforce those subpoenas.

The only argument that resonates at all with me is that Congress is, if not constitutionally obligated, at least strongly recommended constitutionally to impeach someone so monstrous, and I think that means they should do it, but I don't know why, if it's not likely to deliver results yet, it's needed at any particular time. We know it's usually a 2-4 month process, and we have a 16 month window.

I really am open to the idea, though. I want to have at least one real conversation about this to see if I'm missing something. Most of the people in my real life agree with me, and when I ask about this online, the response I get is usually, "If you don't know by now, I can't help you." Two people have actually tried to talk about the practicality of impeachment with me on Twitter. One can't get past "Pelosi is so mean and sucky. Let's get rid of her and impeach!" The other told me that the Dems should break the rules and do something that's almost certainly out of the realm of possibility, and that would supposedly make it work.

So, can anyone lay out for me exactly how they see things playing out over the next 18 months if Pelosi were to go on all the networks first thing tomorrow morning and shout, "IMPEACH THE MOTHERFUCKER!"?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Threading The Needle

A month and a half ago ago, I wrote this regarding impeachment of Trump:
I *THINK* I see the strategy the [Democrats] are playing here. Trump and his people will keep on thinking they're making big moves while they're actually making things worse for themselves (like being excited in March when they quickly move Barr up the board and then watch helplessly as Kamala Harris captures him and they can't play him, at least as effectively, anymore), and the Dems and their non-corrupted allies in law enforcement are subtly setting a trap to be sprung at the correct time. Republicans hate our whole system so badly that they can get away with overturning the board and declaring victory. Democrats cannot overturn the board, because, frankly, we care about living to play another day.
[... The] bottom line is the result. I'd rather use impeachment in 2-3 months when we've worked things to the point that the media and even a few Republicans are in the in our column than gamble from less of a position of strength today. I *think* it has a better chance to save democracy.

Mueller showing up on the podium last month did make a difference -- some of the media is now actually paying attention to the Mueller Report itself rather than to what people, first and foremost Bill Barr, are saying about it. I think that has made members of the media, like, READ THE REPORT. And now, much of the media no longer treats Barr as honest and they're open to the idea that Trump did a wee bit of obstruction of justice. Some examples:

Hell, CNN just hired Daniel Dale, who is known on Twitter as the Toronto Star's reporter covering Trump's lying.

If Pelosi has *any* chance of taking Trump down rather than just shaming him (which, if that's the only option, I'll take), it's going to be by reframing the discussion of why he's being impeached.

Right now, the public discourse is about Volume 2 more than Volume 1. And to the extent it's about Volume 1, it's about "Russian election interference." Not only do we need the spotlight moved over to Volume 1, we need to rewrite that title in the media's head to "Trump election stealing." This is why, I believe, they're holding hearings on Volume I next week and why they're working so hard to get the counterintelligence investigation materials and other documents before starting. If Schiff can't get those materials, he can at least alert the media that they exists, which I think, and I think he thinks, will make them more likely to see the light of day. This could be one reason they haven't subpoenaed Mueller yet; they need some time to change the narrative before bringing him in. What happens in the coming weeks is important. They can't do a shitty job.

When Mueller does testify, it will probably be the televised event of the century, right? So the Democrats had better be prepared for what'll probably be more than one day of questioning and testimony. And who's going to be asking the questions on the Dem side? 11 Congresspeople. And who's going to write them? Their staff, which isn't nearly enough people to move more quickly. Newt Gingrich cut Congressional staff headcount for exactly this reason -- so it would be harder to root out corruption. But you've got 11 congresspeople, and the staff they do have, and they *all* have to be totally up on what the report says.

There's a lot in the works. Over the coming weeks, Mueller is *going* to testify in front of Congress. A lot of people say he's too "by the book." But if he's so "by the book," he knows very well he can't dodge a subpoena and he either has to fess up in front of Congress when he's under oath or plead the 5th, or say he can't answer because the information's classified. But he can't lie and say it's because the information is classified if it isn't -- that would be perjury. He helped put Michael Cohen in jail for lying to Congress. I'd be shocked if he did it himself.

Some combination, if not all of, Trump's tax returns, Trump's financial statements, the unredacted Mueller report, the results of other ongoing investigations, and information from the counterintelligence investigation will be revealed soon. The Dems have already announced two contempt votes for Barr, one for McGahn, one for Ross. I think they're all supposed to happen by the end of next week (each one requires two votes, though not for long).

Mueller 's report is bad for Trump. There's no doubt it shows that he's a criminal. It shows that other Republicans are criminals. And obviously, it shows that Russians are criminals. However. There is so much more going on here than that. This wasn't just a two-year conspiracy by Vladimir Putin to put Trump in office and rewarded by Republicans in all sorts of ways. This is a decade-plus long conspiracy by Putin, and some others, to raise up radical right-wing governments all over the world and to overturn the established post-WWII order. We need to turn back all of it. This is one battle in a larger war. This is why Mueller was looking at people like Nigel Farage... I said that this was more than about one country helping one really bad person steal one election in one year. This has been about a handful of countries helping a *lot* of really bad people steal a *lot* of elections over a period of more than a decade.

But isn't Mueller telling the Dems it's time to impeach? Not necessarily. This is what the Mueller report says about it: Volume II, p. 178, footnote 1091: 

A possible remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a President leaves office. Impeachment would remove a President from office, but would not address the underlying culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays an independent role in addressing an official's conduct distinct from the political remedy of impeachment. See U.S. CONST. ART. l, § 3, cl. 7. Impeachment is also a drastic and rarely invoked remedy, and Congress is not restricted to relying only on impeachment, rather than making criminal law applicable to a former President, as OLC has recognized. A Sitting President's Amenability to Indictment and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C. at 255 ("Recognizing an immunity from prosecution for a sitting President would not preclude such prosecution once the President 's term is over or he is otherwise removed from office by resignation or impeachment.").
That is not the plan. The plan is: don't base the case on *only* Mueller's 448 pages. There are still 14 investigations that he started that are still going on, several Congressional investigations, a number of other investigations in various municipalities, and a ton of other things that are still under wraps.

Anyway, I'm generally on board with impeachment, and I'm glad to see that support for it is increasing:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of Americans who said President Donald Trump should be impeached rose 5 percentage points to 45 percent since mid-April, while more than half said multiple congressional probes of Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

That's from last week. An update this week:

Overall, 27 percent of Americans say there’s enough evidence to begin impeachment hearings now — up 10 points from last month.
Another 24 percent think Congress should continue investigating to see if there’s enough evidence to hold impeachment hearings in the future, which is down eight points.

That's pretty huge. Swaying that 24 percent, which went from 32 percent last month as they went into the pro-impeachment column, is one of the things the Democrats appear to be working on, and if so, it's working.

My congressman and at least one of my Senators do support impeachment and I'm happy about that. And if the other Senator doesn't yet, she will shortly.

What I don't entirely get is why we need to do it now. One of the arguments in favor of that is because he's doing so many awful things, like caging children, and taking away an awful lot of rights from already disadvantaged groups, not to mention his gambling with the economy. I just don't get how an impeachment without a conviction helps on that front. Republicans in the Senate support most of these awful things, and they can get away politically in the media with letting a little obstruction of justice slide. He's committed so many crimes that Mueller laid bare. They are all absolutely crimes. But they're not crimes that will get him removed from office. So why the rush? We are going to know a LOT more a few weeks from now than we do today.

A brief aside: As much of a shitbag as Jeff Sessions is and always has been, he recused himself for a reason -- he was actually involved in the Russia plot -- and Mueller had relatively free rein for a while. I think when he lost that, he had to narrow his scope because he saw the writing on the wall. I just don't have much of another explanation for why he interviewed some of the people he did and then never mentioned them at all in his report. I was gobsmacked that the thing wasn't over 1000 pages.

Another sign he wasn't done is that if you read the report, which Barr said on March 22nd was wrapped up, there's stuff in there from an interview he conducted with Michael Cohen on March 19th, just three days before. There's no way people like Mueller and his team, who are cautious for a fault, just tacked on things like that at the very end with no time to actually check them out.

Back to the point -- prosecutors sometimes sit on charges until they can most effectively use them. If you're Elliot Ness and you can't get Al Capone on anything but tax evasion, you get him on tax evasion. That's pretty good, but if you can get him on murder, you get him on murder. If you want to get him on murder, you cannot walk into the courtroom saying, "Your honor, today I bring before you a man we are accusing of tax evasion, but I will prove that he committed murder."

Unless you think that there is a way you can do it that *can* actually remove him from office. Nancy Pelosi said at the Commonwealth Club the other day: "Nothing is off the table, but we do want to make such a compelling case, such an ironclad case, that the Republican Senate ... will be convinced of the path that we have to take as a country." She's either delusional, lying, or within some reasonable distance of correct. Trump appears to believe Option #3.  The fact that he won't let go of a report that supposedly exonerated him is telling, and Barr is going to extreme lengths to help him cover up.

I think it's possible, but she needs a smoking gun around election theft or Trump being a Russian (or otherwise) agent. A secret recording of one of Putin and Trump's conversations; or checks written from a Trump entity to Russian hackers or their representatives; or (probably not, but) the pee-pee tape? Probably a different story. Until she has that case, she needs to play the media into thinking that when she does get to using impeachment, she does so as a measure of last resort so that she doesn't look partisan. April Ryan on CNN said it well last weekend: [paraphrasing] "She's trying to nail the coffin shut. She won't impeach while the lid is still open."

I think things are progressing. We went from a handful of mostly backbench House Dems and one or two presidential candidates to call for impeachment to higher-profile House Dems to House Committee Chairs and most of the candidates while Nancy has gone from "No, it's too risky" to "We're going to get there."

The vibe I'm getting from her, and the actions I see the Democrats taking now feels nothing like 2007ish, when she gave a hard no, much to my chagrin, when it came to impeaching Bush. The Dems gained 38 seats in the House in 2006. And they weren't conducting hearing after hearing of Republican elected officials and corporations, and weren't constantly seeking documents, and they weren't holding anyone in contempt. This is not how Pelosi was talking about Bush:

Nancy would love to get rid of Trump. It feels personal for her, which is good. He's so outwardly horrible, it should be personal. I do not believe at all that the delay is about losing elections. That was Pelosi's opening shot to throw the media, and the comment about "Trump not being worth it" was aimed at Trump. She needled him again similarly on Jimmy Kimmel's show two weeks back:

'I’m done with him, in terms of talking about him,' Pelosi told late-night host Jimmy Kimmel on his ABC show. 'What we want to talk about is, let’s build the infrastructure of America and not have him stomp out of the room.'

I see comments like these on Twitter all the time:

When Pelosi says something to the effect of, "Let's get Trump to make a deal on infrastructure," it means "Let's get him to show up to a meeting that the media believes he should show up to and then let him whine like a little baby and storm out of the room." It's part of what she calls "self-impeachment," and that's exactly what Trump is doing:

But even with Trump making things worse for Trump (TM Bob Cesca), this just isn't as easy as some Democrats seem to want it to be, and in some ways deliberately so. Democrats simply can't run roughshod through our political and media systems the way Republicans can. That's partially due to the nature of liberalism vs. the nature of conservatism in general, partially due to the Republicans having spent 40 years working the media and the dark holes in our electoral systems, and partially because when the bad guys break the rules/laws, it's mostly bad, but it's a little good because 1. it shows us our vulnerabilities and 2. because it exposes them as bad guys. But when the good guys break them, then the rules are basically null and void.

Seeing the Dems actually trying to navigate these systems -- even if it takes longer than it would to just bash it to hell like Republicans do -- rather than just throwing up their hands, is a welcome advance. The Democrats don't want to become the bad guys while trying to take Trump out,which is why the Democrats aren't breaking the rules. However, they are moving forward within the rules.

The minute Pelosi affirmatively does anything involving, as Trump put it, that "dirty, filthy, disgusting word," the media is going to make a decision for the people as to whether or not the Democrats dropped a nuke on poor Trump for partisan political reasons, or because they've unearthed the greatest conspiracy in the history of the world. Do you think the average American knows the difference between an impeachment inquiry, an impeachment vote, and a Senate trial? Some members of the media might, and some might not. But unless they get a lot of help, they'll do a very shitty job of explaining it to the public. Whatever the media decides at the moment the Democrats drop the "I-Bomb" will probably be the narrative that colors their coverage for the next god-knows-how-many years.

The media gets something in its head about Democrats, the Republicans repeat it over and over, and then it becomes the truth. Hillary Clinton something something e-mails something something Clinton Foundation. Al Gore said he invented the internet (he didn't say that), so he's a chronic liar. Jimmy Carter gave a speech about "malaise" even though he didn't say "malaise."

Of course getting around all if this may be frustratingly slow. But if I'm presented with three choices: 1. Throw up my hands because I don't want to risk doing something bad, 2. Work more slowly and carefully than I wish I could to find a solution that keeps me good but also solves the problem, or 3. just do what the bad guys do... I'm picking #2. We'll see in the coming weeks if the Democrats are picking #1 or #2. It seems like 90% of Democratic Twitter is adamant that the Democrats are picking #1, which is why I wrote this post. I just don't want to have to engage in that discussion right now, unless someone can explain to me what real advantages impeachment brings that the Democrats don't have at their disposal now.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

No, Mueller's Not Disappointing Us

On his interview show on Wednesday, Bob Cesca interviewed Gaslight Nation co-host Sarah Kendzior. Sarah is extremely skeptical that Bob Mueller is doing any good, and even said that he might be complicit. I thought that was nuts, and posted my reactions on Bob's Patreon page. I wanted to put them up here, because they reflect thoughts that I'm tweeting way too much the last couple of days, and I'd rather have them live here. So here's a slightly-cleaned up compilation of three posts I wrote:

I still don't get the frustration with Mueller. We really do know now that he was always skating on thin ice as far as his investigation being shut down. I don't know what he could have done better, and I think this will play out over the coming months as the other investigations that he helped initiate move along.... it's kinda like at the end of Rogue One, with Mueller as the dude who's running from Vader before the doors close trying to hand off the Death Star plans.

As of tonight, it seems that, as I predicted on the day the Barr letter came out, Barr shut Mueller down early. He went as far as he was allowed to go -- remember, he had just requested six months' more funding just a few weeks before; I think he was meaning to more or less continue full force, and then Barr, as Vader, chased him down and he got out the best report he could. But now those investigations, plus Congress, know the Death Star weak points, and we're going to see TIE fighters [JASON'S NOTE, 5/3/19, 11:22 PM -- Jesus Christ, I meant X-Wings. Idiot. Thanks, Elliot.] fanning out to go after them in the coming months. Of course, in Star Wars, those TIE fighters got off a one-in-a-million shot to destroy the Death Star. This may not work, but it's giving us a better chance than a lot of people seem to think.

Maybe I'm being pollyannish -- I'm certainly being dorkish -- but I saw a *LOT* from Mueller that I liked, and his work just felt to me to be way beyond the 9/11 Commission, or Fitzgerald, or any of the other kinda half-assed investigations we've seen in our lifetimes.

Additionally, it sucks, but aside from Mueller working within the constraints of Mueller's job, Democrats are always working under the constraints of the media. If the Dems don't move at the right pace and lay out their case to the public carefully, the media just doesn't believe them, the public tunes it out, and the GOP jumps all over the Dems about jumping to conclusions. I believe strongly that Pelosi is planning impeachment hearings, but is waiting for a few things to happen (or be blocked from happening by the GOP, making themselves look worse) before she launches them. Those include getting the unredacted Mueller report (that appears to be blocked), having Barr testify in front of the House (also blocked), having Mueller testify (Barr could probably figure out a way to block him), and having McGahn testify (he's a private citizen now and I'm not sure how Trump could stop him short of jailing him, incapacitating him, or blackmailing him. I expect to see each of these things play out one way or another over the next 4-6 weeks.

The interview reminded me why I have some issues with Kendzior. She says things that make sense for a while, and then kind of like Rand Paul, just moves into Crazytown. I'm certainly open to the possibility that I'm wrong, and that Mueller didn't take things seriously enough, but I don't think for one damned minute that he's *complicit*. That's ridiculous. And, unlike what Sarah said, we found out yesterday that Mueller *is* still on the DOJ payroll. What are the penalties for violating their policies? I bet they're steep.

She's right that the Mueller report is incomplete, but as I said above, I believe that's because his work was cut short. He was investigating a LOT more than was in the report, things that led me to believe that he was being pretty comprehensive, but that didn't get mentioned in the report. He WAS investigating Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even Brexit. We knew that based on who he was interviewing.

And as for the lack of indictments, I believed that Kushner, Junior, and Ivanka would get indicted later in 2019. Mueller was headed there. He didn't get the time he expected to have in the end. If he'd  indicted any of them without an airtight case, once again, the media would've been all over him. Additionally, does anyone think his work had nothing to do with getting Assange arrested right near the end?

Mueller's not a superhero. But the work he did was a productive part of a collaborative effort that is giving us a true shot at making things better. Trump wanted to fire him over and over and over for a reason. Short of, say, evidence that he really was working with the GOP, it'll be really difficult to convince me otherwise.

A number of people have said that Mueller should've held a press conference by now. He can't do that, potentially under penalty of prison, as long as he's still employed by the government, which we didn't know for sure he was until a few days ago. I was expecting since the first day Barr's letter dropped that he had Mueller handcuffed in some way, and that appears to be one of them.

So, instead, soon after we get to see (85% of) Mueller's report, "someone" leaks Mueller's letter to Barr (and the fact that Mueller memorialized his thoughts on this in a letter is seen as a pretty serious step in that context) the day before Barr goes up before the Senate and two days before he goes up before the House. Barr ends up looking like a fool and a liar in front of the Senate on an eight hour nationally televised event, and then has to bail on the House. Then the Democrats in the House, who are not handcuffed the way Mueller would be because Barr can't fire them or jail them, and also, unlike Mueller, can actually take action against Barr by holding him in contempt (which they apparently will do, probably most wisely after sending him a subpoena and giving him a week or two to defy it on the record), and then have options after that -- they could put him in the clinker, which they probably won't, they can impeach him and conduct full-on hearings, or they can use it as evidence in an upcoming impeachment of Trump. And neither Barr nor Trump can stop them from doing these things.

Kenzior said that Mueller isn't really "playing chess." I believe he is, but he understands that if he moves his rook diagonally to try to check the king, it's his rook that gets taken off the board, not the king. Or probably more accurate, in a game that's bigger than one person, he *is* the rook. Nancy's the queen (ooh, I do love this metaphor), and she's waiting for the right opening to start SMASHING pieces. I have found in chess that novice players get so eager to use their queen early because it's so powerful, but when they're playing a more experienced player, that queen is off the board in like the next five moves because the player discounts the fact that the queen, while it has a greater variety of moves than the other pieces, it's just as vulnerable as any of the others, and the better player is quietly watching that piece for that vulnerability to be exposed. Once that queen is gone, the novice player is pretty much fucked and because he was betting everything on the queen, and it all just goes irreversibly downhill from there.

We cannot afford to lose the queen, so we need to properly build up to the point where she can make her biggest moves by taking some of the GOP's pieces, who could otherwise capture her, off of the board. And that would be bad, because our king is basically this country's democracy. So, use our rook (Mueller) to castle the king and play some offense (like taking pieces like Flynn and Manafort off the board), let our pawns (in this case, let's say people like Liz Warren who has a platform but not much direct power make some noise about impeachment and start to move towards the other end of the board, where, if they make it, can turn into more powerful pieces), use knights and bishops like Nadler, Schiff, Waters, and Harris to turn up the heat on Mad King Trump at an appropriate pace by issuing subpoenas and daring him to defy them and taking his plays off the board (like turning people like Cohen and McGahn against him). Then you give yourself options for paths to victory (the narrow chance of getting so much horrible shit out on Trump that when you impeach the Senate has to convict, one of the other jurisdictions indicting him, or leaving him isolated and flailing alone for 20 moves until he runs out of steam in November 2020).

I don't play chess much because I don't have the patience (and I suck), but I understand the rules and the hypothetical strategies. I *THINK* I see the strategy the real players are playing here. Trump and his people will keep on thinking they're making big moves while they're actually making things worse for themselves (like being excited in March when they quickly move Barr up the board and then watch helplessly as Kamala Harris captures him and they can't play him, at least as effectively, anymore), and the Dems and their non-corrupted allies in law enforcement are subtly setting a trap to be sprung at the correct time. Republicans hate our whole system so badly that they can get away with overturning the board and declaring victory. Democrats cannot overturn the board, because, frankly, we care about living to play another day.

OK, that's a lot of chess. But, bottom line is the result. I'd rather use impeachment in 2-3 months when we've worked things to the point that the media and even a few Republicans are in the in our column than gamble from less of a position of strength today. I *think* it has a better chance to save democracy. Come three months from now, if I don't see the progress I'm looking for, I'll be more inclined to join the likes of Sarah Kendzior. But I'm optimistic. This feels more like 1974 than 2005.